Your lawn may be doing more harm than good.
The quest for greener grass on your side of the fence could be harming the environment. By EPA estimates, Americans apply 90 million pounds of pesticides to their lawn and gardens every year, creating a potential hazard for adults, children and pets. In addition, synthetic fertilizers can burn your lawn and leach away into nearby waterways. And odds are your lawn products contain both of these ingredients.
Why go organic?
Organic lawn care is a great way to a safe and healthy lawn. A healthy lawn is the best defense against weeds, insects and diseases. For a healthy lawn, you need healthy soil, alive with earthworms and loaded with beneficial microbes. Healthy soils let grass roots grow deep, making them more resistant to drought and stress. To have a safe & healthy soil, you need to avoid using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and follow the tips at right.
4 Tips for a Chemical Free Lawn
1. Go on an organic diet. Choose an organic lawn program like the new one from Espoma. Benefits include:
- No pesticides or synthetic ingredients
- Product lasts 2.5x longer than typical lawn foods
- Won’t burn your lawn or leach away
- Each bag covers 5,000 sq. ft.
- Safe to use around kids & pets
2. Water When the Rooster Crows
- Water early in the morning to avoid evaporation loss.
- Start watering at the first signs of stress in the Spring.
- Water deeper & less frequently in the Spring to encourage deeper rooting.
- During the summer, watering should be lighter & more frequent.
4. Sweeten the Soil (if necessary)
- Lawns require a pH range of 6 – 7 to utilize nutrients.
- If the pH is too low (acidic), sweeten it with lime.
- If the pH is too high (alkaline), acidify it with sulfur.
- You can check the pH with a simple home test kit.
With Memorial Day in the rearview, summer is officially here once again — and while we wish that meant nothing but sunshine and barbecues, bugs seem to always make an appearance this time of year. But did you know there are ways to avoid getting bitten and bugged every time you want to relax outside?
The fragrance of certain plants can actually block the receptors insects use to find us. It’s just another great reason to get a garden going in your backyard, around your patio, or anywhere you like to enjoy fresh air. All you really need to sustain these helpful plants is some good starter fertilizer like Espoma’s organic Bio-tone Starter Plus and to make sure they’re fed every two to four weeks with Grow! to ensure they get the proper nutrients.
So, if you’re getting some unwanted guests during those summer cookouts, try planting some of these simple staples.
Did you know many mosquito repelling candles and sprays are made from citronella oil? Lemon grass naturally produces this ingredient and doubles as a beautiful grassy plant for walkways and around tables. Alternatively, you can plant it in its own pot and use it wherever your local mosquitos tend to congregate.
Other Lemon-Scented Plants
Similar to lemongrass, other plants that give off a strong citrus fragrance — like lemon-scent geraniums, lemon thyme, and lemon balm — work well to repel bugs. These plants use their fresh scent to keep their leaves from being eaten — and in turn can help you keep from being bitten.
Despite lavender’s sweet smell being quite popular among people, most insects hate it. Keeping this plant near seating areas will help ward away mosquitos and other pesky flies. A great thing about this plant is that you can use it fresh or dried to get the job done — or even just use the extracted oil. This way you have different options on how you want to decorate while still keeping the pests at bay.
Rosemary is a great addition to your cookout. Throw a few sprigs on the grill as you’re cooking to release its fragrance into the air. It’ll smell wonderful to you and your family but make the bugs fly in the other direction.
Basil is another herb that will keep the mosquitos away. It’s also toxic to mosquito larvae, so placing this plant near water can help discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs.
Mint’s fragrance is great at repelling pests like ants, mosquitoes, and even mice. It’s also always a nice addition to any dish, so incorporating it into your barbecue can be beneficial in more ways than one.
If cabbage moths are just as pesky as mosquitoes in your backyard, garlic can be your saving grace. When crushed, the garlic bulbs release allicin — an enzyme that produces that classic garlic smell. Your local pests will definitely not enjoy your garlic breath, so go ahead and use it up all weekend long.
Any and all of these plants can be used purely to keep the bugs away, but they’re also beautiful decor for your outdoor area. Be sure to keep up with them all season long in order to reap the benefits whenever your cookouts come around.
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Have you ever admired the uniform stripes on the field at a baseball game? It’ll take some practice, but with some work you can create your own striped lawn.
The striped effect is achieved when light reflects off of the blades of grass bent in different directions, creating the dark and light patterns. It’s the same effect you’ll notice after running your hand back and forth across a suede jacket or a thick carpet. This is often the result of grass being bent down by the pressure applied by rollers attached to the back of a lawn mower. The pros use reel mowers with multiple rollers.
Mowing stripes into your lawn actually benefits your yard and encourages healthy grass growth. Mowing too often in the same direction can cause taller grass to bend over, shielding other blades from the sun and killing you lawn over time. Not to mention, you could create ugly tire marks from repeatedly mowing in the same pattern.
To get a landscape design worthy of its own baseball league, you’ll need to start with proper care. Green lawns start with proper care. Always use an organic lawn fertilizer or all season lawn food. Harsher, chemical lawn products can be eaten, ingested or passed on to your dog. This exposure has been linked with a higher risk of canine cancer.
Whether you’re mowing stripes or not, a good cut begins with a sharp mower blade. A dull mower blade tears grass and can cause brown spots. So, sharpen your mower blades every fall and spring. Keep the mower blades high (3” or higher) to encourage healthy roots. If your mower blades are too low, you’re scalping the lawn.
Not all grass types will stripe equally. Choose cool-season grasses, such as fescue, for the best stripes.
5 Steps to a Striped Lawn
1. Get the right materials. Check with your local garden center to see if they sell striping kits or purchase one online. Or, use brooms and squeegees to achieve the stripe effect you desire.
2. Plan your pattern. With a little skill and a big vision, you can put your mower to work. The first time you do this, sketch a pattern of what you want your yard to look like to help you visualize it.
3. Keep your mower straight. It’ll help you to mow if you start parallel to a sidewalk to begin with. To continue mowing in a straight pattern, keep your eyes looking 10 feet in front of you while you mow.
4. Make clean turns. At the end of a row, make a Y-shaped turn to reduce the chance of damaging your lawn. Then mow in the opposite direction alongside your previous pass.
5. Take it to the next level. Make your stripes look professional with a lawn roller. Using the lawn roller, roll it across the grass in the same direction you previously mowed.
TIP: Create a checkerboard by mowing your lawn a second time at a 90 degree angle.
Espoma Organic Lawn Food Featured in this Post:
Just as you need energy to get through your day, your plants do too. And of course, when it comes to family-friendly gardening, organic fertilizer is the way to go!
What is Organic Fertilizer?
Organic fertilizers contain only ingredients from plant, animal or mineral sources. Examples of these kinds of ingredients are bone meal, kelp meal and greensand.
Why use Organic Fertilizer?
While it is true that all fertilizers ultimately feed nutrients to plants in the same form, it is the process by which they are delivered that makes organic fertilizers superior to others.
Three ways to think about organic fertilizers:
1. Gardening always starts with the soil. Organic fertilizer “feeds the soil that feeds the plants”. The process by which organic fertilizers deliver their nutrients enhances the fertility and structure of the soil.
Organics are digested by soil microorganisms, which then release the nutrients in a form available to plants. This process produces humus, a spongy material that improves soil structure. When you improve soil structure, the soil is better able to hold the proper balance of water, air and nutrients until they are required by plants.
Plants respond by developing larger root systems. Larger roots support more vigorous top growth and make plants less susceptible to drought. And by stimulating a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, plants become more resistant to insects and diseases.
2. Organic fertilizers will provide slow, steady feeding, as the plants require it. The release process is slow and largely dependent upon three factors: the microbial population in the soil, moisture, and soil temperature.
A healthy population of microbes in the soil is necessary for the digestion process. Moisture is required to sustain microbial life as well as to keep nutrients flowing into the plants root zone. And soil temperature is critical because as it rises, plants require nutrients more rapidly.
Fortunately, microbial activity mimics these requirements and increases as soil temperature rises, so that organics feed the needed nutrients as the plants require them.
3. Most of the time, the gardener isn’t the only one in the garden. Organic fertilizers are the safest choice for your plants and the environment.Unlike synthetic plant foods, organics have an extremely low salt index, which means there is little to no risk of burning (dehydrating) plants in periods of extreme drought or when over-applying.
Organic fertilizers are generally very resistant to leaching out of the soil, so their nutrients stay in the root zone until the plants need them. And since most organic ingredients are byproducts from commercial farms and meat processing plants, the utilization of them for feeding plants is really a system of recycling much like composting.
So, when the debate of whether you should fertilize your plants pops in your head remember: organic fertilizer is the right choice for you and your family. Check out our fertilizers here.
There’s no better way to enjoy your garden than by encouraging it to grow bigger and better. Before your summer veggies and flowers peak, take your garden to the next-level by refueling it.
Knock-out these 5 essential tasks and your garden will thank you. You’ll extend your summer season and ensure that your lawn and garden are in tip-top shape.
5 Ways to Give Your Summer Garden a Boost
1. Hydrate. When it’s hot, dry and muggy, the best thing is a nice cold drink. Your plants need some H2O, too. The trick to keeping your garden hydrated during the hottest days is not to water more. It’s to water smarter. Water plants deeply in the morning so they have the entire day to soak it up.
2. Keep plants fed. Your summer veggies and flowers are hungry. Feed hanging baskets, container gardens and annuals with liquid Bloom! plant food every 2 to 4 weeks. Vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers are heavy feeders. Continue to feed every 2 weeks with organic fertilizers Tomato-tone or Garden-tone.
3. Prune and deadhead. Extend the life of perennials by deadheading flowers as soon as they are spent. This will encourage plants to keep blooming as long as weather permits. Your roses will thank you. Prune tomato suckers and shrubs now, for fuller plants later.
4. Mow lawns strategically. When mowing, keep the mower blades high (3” or higher) to encourage healthy roots. Cut grass in the evening to give it time to recover and keep yourself cool.
5. Plant more! There are many quickly maturing plants that will thrive in summer gardens and be ready for harvest in the fall. Try planting radishes, cucumbers, beans and more.
Sit back and relax! Take a good look at your hard work and dream about the rewards and bountiful harvests you’ll enjoy in the months to come.
If you’re looking to get a better tomato harvest this summer, be sure to check out our complete tomato guide!
Easy-to-grow groundcovers aren’t just limited to grass. There are plenty of attractive solutions that suppress weeds and add interest to your yard.
Groundcovers that feature variegated leaves and bright blooms bring life to areas that might otherwise go unnoticed. Plus, most groundcovers use less water than typical lawns and don’t require mowing.
To get a groundcover started, dig planting holes twice the size of the plants’ roots, fill partially with compost, add the plant and then backfill with compost enhanced with Bio-tone Starter Plus. Water plants thoroughly after planting.
5 Ground Covers for Your Yard
Choose this perennial herb to create an aromatic, green carpet. Creeping thyme will grow between the cracks and crevices of stone paths and the pink or white blooms are lovely. Plant in full sun. Thyme is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4-10.
2. Creeping Juniper
This evergreen thrives in the heat. It does especially well in poor and sandy soils, drought and hot summers. Use it to fill in slopes, hills or rocky terrain. Plant in full sun. Creeping Juniper is hardy in Zones 3-10.
One of the most dependable perennials you can grow, sedum quickly establishes in any sunny spot. Some sedums provide four seasons of interest, turning red in fall and winter. This low-maintenance, fast spreading plant will grow in even the poorest soil. Plant in full sun. Sedum is hardy in Zones 4-9.
4. Sweet Woodruff
Its star-shaped leaves and tiny white flowers make this shade-loving ground cover a favorite for many gardeners. True to its name, sweet woodruff will bring an earthy aroma to your yard. Plant in part to full shade. Sweet woodruff is hardy in Zones 4-8.
Pachysandra is a great ground cover for areas where deer are a problem. Plus, it requires little care once it’s established. Be careful, though. While this ground cover is great for deterring deer, it can be poisonous to pets and children. Grow in shade and moist, well-drained soil. Pachysandra is hardy in Zones 4-8.
Looking for something with more blooms? Find out the top annuals to plant in containers.
Guest Post by Brian Rees of Bradley Mowers
Do you ever drive through a neighborhood and check out all the fellow homeowner’s grass? If a lawn is the perfect color and neatly manicured, you can’t help but take notice.
The Importance of Picking the Right Grass
Grass is divided into three types, cool season, warm season and transitional. The success of your lawn will depend on numerous things. The most important thing is planting the right grass for your area or zone. Those that live in the north need cool season grasses, while those that live in the south need warm season varieties. Those that live in the middle can use a transitional grass. Randomly picking a grass based on its color and promises is not wise. You may be purchasing grass that won’t grow in your climate.
Cool Season Grasses
Cool season grasses are for areas that have cold winters and hot summers. They may experience a great deal of rain. These grasses can go for an extended period of time during drought periods. They do this by going dormant. These grasses include Kentucky Bluegrass, Rough Bluegrass, Perennial and Annual Ryegrass, Bentgrass and Red Fescue.
Transition Zone Grasses
Between the northern and southern turf regions, there is an area known as the “transition zone.” This area is in the lower elevations of North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Kansas, and Arkansas. In these zones, neither the warm and cool grasses will be successful.
Keep in mind that some of the cool season areas, the Kentucky bluegrass will do well best. In Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia, the Tall Fescue variety work well. Lower elevations do better with warm season grasses. For those that live in the transition zone, they should use Zoysiagrass, Tall Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass, Thermal Blue, and Kentucky Bluegrass.
Warm Season Grasses
Those that live in the south find that growing and maintaining a lawn is a bit more involved than what it is for northern homeowners. Grass selection is much trickier. There are many turfs that will do well when started from plugs or sod, but they don’t do well started from seed. The key element is the soil.
A low maintenance yard in this region must have good soil. When cold temperatures arrive, almost all warm season grasses will lose their color and turn brown. To prevent having a brown yard, some southerners will add Rye-grass to their existing laws to help keep a green hue during the winter. The technical term for this is called “winter overseeding.” Warm season grass varieties include St. Augustine Grass, Zoysiagrass, Centipede, Carpet Grass, Buffalo Grass, Bermuda Grass, and Bahia.
Establishing new lawns from seed or sod doesn’t have to be difficult. For the lawn to take root, you need to make sure it has plenty of water. This is especially true in warmer climates where the sun will suck the moisture away.
Try Espoma’s Organic Lawn Starter to help nourish the new lawn. The new lawn should be watered frequently until it has been cut at least two times. The ideal cutting height for a new lawn is roughly to about 3 inches tall. After those initial growing phases, regular water methods can resume.
Though it takes a little bit of work at first, having a gorgeous lawn isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes patience, dedication, and knowing the right products to help achieve your desired result.
Brian Rees is a media relations representative for Bradley Mowers. In his spare time, he enjoys writing, music, and spending time outside.
Winter can be hard on any garden, but many plants can be protected from a light frost and continue to grow until your first hard freeze. Now that your garden has transformed for fall, it’s time to shield it.
If the forecast calls for a cold front or frost, it can actually improve the flavor of many cool weather greens, such as spinach, collards, and kale.
While we can’t control the weather, we can protect plants now before they get into trouble.
Protect Plants from a Frost:
1. Water your plants the night before a frost. Wet soil releases moisture in the air, which raises the temperature and keeps plants warmer throughout the night.
2. Cover plants with an old sheet, blanket, cardboard boxes or row covers. Row covers can add more than a month to the fall growing season. Use bricks, large stones or landscape pins to anchor covers to the ground. Remove covers as soon as the weather warms up.
3. Cover individual plants with an inverted bucket or flower pot. Uncover as soon as the temperature rises above freezing.
4. If you haven’t brought all your container plants inside yet, now is the time to do so. Or, you can simply move large potted plants closer to the house or into direct sun.
If a freeze does do some damage to your garden, don’t fret! Sometimes only a few parts of a plant are injured, and it will continue to grow.
Fall is truly one of the best times to get outside and to accomplish yard work. Summer’s heat has come and gone and your landscape is ready to be worked. Get your lawn in tip-top shape with this simple checklist.
Cross off these tasks from Hick’s Nurseries before winter to ensure your lawn and garden jump back into shape come spring.
Prep Your Lawn for Winter
Start with a soil test.
Test soil now for pH and nutrient levels so you have time to amend before spring. Grab a stainless steel trowel and dig 4” deep. Use either use a DIY soil test or send your soil sample to the county extension office.
Rake or collect leaves in a mower with bagging attachment from the lawn and add to compost. Leaves add great nutrients to compost.
Thatch is the layer of dead grass, roots and debris that accumulates between the soil surface and the grass. Over time, a thick mat forms that hinders water and air from reaching the soil. It can encourage pests and diseases. Use a thatching rake to break up small areas. For larger lawns, use a power dethatcher.
Reseed Bare Spots.
Fall is the best time to reseed tired and stressed lawns. With a broadcast spreader, apply a seed that best suits your region and weather.
Prepare with Care.
Get your lawn ready for the cooler weather ahead by fortifying it with nutrients. An organic winterizer promotes growth, helps lawns recover from drought and increases winter hardiness. Follow instructions here.
Your lawn is ready for winter and will surely bounce back in spring. Now it’s time to start planning your garden for next year.
About Hicks Nurseries
Hicks Nurseries is Long Island’s largest and oldest garden center. Family owned and operated since 1853, the nursery offers an exceptional selection of indoor and outdoor plants, casual furniture, garden accents, silk flower arrangements, pond and birding supplies as well as complete landscape design services. The Long Island, NY garden center is located at 100 Jericho Turnpike in Westbury; 516-334-0066. Visit our web site at www.HicksNurseries.com.